Why A Bunch Of Economists Expect The US Housing Market To Go On A Huge Tear

 

Bank of America has again revised up its home price forecast to 8 percent for 2013, up from 4.7 percent.This is after a 7.3 percent rise in 2012.

In a new report titled “Someone say House Party?”, BAML’s Chris Flanagan, Michelle Meyer, and Justin Borst write that “a positive feedback loop has begun”. Basically, when people think home prices are rising, they think they will keep doing so and  credit conditions will improve, and this in increases demand for homes.

And there’s proof of this. Fannie Mae‘s latest survey shows that 48 percent of respondents believe that home prices will rise over the next 12 months, only 10 percent forecast a fall.

“It is a powerful positive relationship especially in this environment of historically low interest rates and a Federal Reserve determined to keep policy accommodative.”

Tight housing supply and affordability are likely to stoke demand and push home prices higher.

What’s more, the declining inventory isn’t being driven by demand like it was during the housing boom, but by declining supply. And the drag from shadow inventory was also a lot lower than expected.

In a note out yesterday, Capital Economics’ Paul Diggle also upwardly revised his home price forecast to 8 percent for the year, up from his previous call for a 5 percent rise.

“Prices of both new and existing homes are picking up, the latter by over 10% year-on- year. Indeed, after a couple of years during which new house prices outperformed, primarily owing to builders constructing more homes for the higher-end market, we now expect existing house prices to close the gap.

As more consumers are able to access mortgage credit, homebuilders should widen their offering, while continued investment demand will bid up existing house prices.”

 

new and exisitng home price sales chart

Capital Economics

 
And Ivy Zelman was on CNBC yesterday saying “we’re in a nirvana for housing. I’m the most bullish I’ve ever been”.

BAML’s economists expect home prices to rise despite tepid economic growth. This is because the Fed will continue to keep mortgage rates low. Only a huge jolt to the payrolls would hurt the housing recovery.

Both BAML economists and Diggle however expect the pace of home price growth to decline in 2014. BAML forecasts 6.5 percent in 2014. Diggle expects 5 percent growth in 2014 and 2015 because he thinks large gains in home prices can’t be sustained through investor demand.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/baml-us-home-prices-to-rise-8-2013-3#ixzz2NO4Ljbuv

Real-estate scam are a big boomer complaint #housing

Most U.S. real-estate markets are past the worst of the housing bust, but homeowners—especially boomers—are still citing real-estate scams and mortgage frauds among their biggest complaints to federal regulators.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, real estate and mortgage issues were both in the top 25 categories of complaints for 2011 and 2012. And those in their 50s had the most to complain about, accounting for 23% of all fraud complaints.

Many boomers may be seeking to downsize from large family homes, while others are overextended or upside down in their mortgage.

Whether selling, buying or both, consumers need to beware of schemes to defraud them in what is likely one of if not the biggest asset in their portfolio: their home.

Many real estate scams just keep reinventing themselves, becoming the same old trick using a new way to get victims.

Paul Barbagelata, broker-owner of Barbagelata Real Estate in San Francisco, has worked in real estate for 23 years. His family has been in the business since 1952 and over the past 61 years they have seen some of the oldest scams come, go and come right back again.

“Forgery of documents showing someone is the owner of a property but really is not,” is one major problem, he said. “It’s been reinvented with technology as the duplicating of notary stamps and grant deeds is much easier with the use of the Internet,” he said.

He said, “selling swampland in Florida is the old-time ultimate scam.” But in recent years, he said, he’s seen scams “selling empty lots to people in rural areas who are promised utility service but never get it.”

Would-be homeowners also should not buy or rent property without seeing it first. That dream retirement home can be a nightmare if you fall for an online real estate scam.

The Internet has made it easy to research real estate, but just because something appears to be a legitimate piece of property for sale, doesn’t mean it is. Never wire or send money for a deposit without proper guidance from a trusted source such as your attorney or a Realtor.

The FTC says there are certain buzz words consumers need to be wary of when it comes to real-estate loans. If a mortgage ad offers a “fixed” rate be sure to find out how long it is fixed for. Some of these rates are as little as 30 days and consumers have a rude awakening when their loan payment goes up before they have even finished unpacking the boxes.

When you see the words “very low rates,” make sure you are clear if they are referring to a payment rate or the interest rate. This big detail may be buried in the fine print. The difference is the interest rate will be the rate used to calculate the interest owed to the lender every month. The payment rate will be the rate used to calculate the amount of the monthly payment.

And to add to the confusion and cost, if the payment rate is less than the interest rate, the interest due will not be covered. What that boils down to is “negative amortization,” whereby the loan balance increases.

Homeowners who find themselves at risk of foreclosure, or in foreclosure, face another group of scams: mortgage relief.

These scams have made it into the FTC’s top 15 complaints the past three years in a row. You will hear all the things you want to hear: your monthly payment will be reduced, a money-back guarantee offer or even that the company is affiliated with the government or your lender.

According to the FTC, companies will promise that “they’ll negotiate a deal with your lender to reduce your mortgage payments or to save your home. They may claim to be attorneys or represent a law firm. They may tell you not to contact your lender, lawyer, or credit counselor. They promise to handle all the details once you pay them a fee. Then they stop returning your calls and take off with your money.” Read more from the FTC’s Consumer Information publication on mortgage-relief scams.

The FTC’s Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule makes it illegal for a company to collect fees until the homeowner has received and accepted an offer of relief from the homeowner’s lender. So, even if you agree to receive the help from one of these companies, you don’t need to pay a dime until you get the results you want.

Even without mortgage schemes and real-estate scams, a legitimate real-estate transaction in an unsettled or recovering market can have its problems.

Barbegelata says one of the most common mistakes an anxious buyer makes is not taking the time to understand all the details of the loan process and fees associated with buying.

As for anxious sellers, he said their biggest mistake is “rushing a home on the market. Not putting money into staging and cosmetics can often times lead to a loss of tens of thousands of dollars.”

The more rushed you are, the more likely you will overlook something or sign a document before fully understanding it. When it comes to real estate and mortgages, knowing the people working with you is key. And if you are new to the process, ask friends for referrals, check references and make sure they are familiar with property values and the community you are buying into.

And sometimes it’s not a scam that ends up costing people more than it should. Emotions can run high when you are in bidding wars and there are delays in the mortgage approval process. Stay cool. Don’t rush, work with a team you trust and remember the adage that has been around for as long as scams: if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.

Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist, documentarian and author Jeanette Pavini covers consumer and investigative news for numerous publications, radio and television. Jeanette is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Real Estate Professionals Expect Both Home #Values and Transactions to Increase in 2013 #housing

Market Leader Survey Shows 28 Percent Increase in Market Confidence vs. 2012, Highlights Several “Heartland” Markets Expected to Lead the Recovery

KIRKLAND, WA, Mar 11, 2013 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) — Market Leader LEDR -0.46% , a leader in online marketing and technology solutions for real estate professionals, today released results of a nationwide survey highlighting a significantly more optimistic real estate community across several key market indicators, including real estate valuations, existing-home transactions, new construction starts and more. The survey involved more than 2,400 real estate professionals, all members of ActiveRain, the real estate industry’s largest social media network with more than 330,000 real estate professional members.

A similar survey in early 2012 correctly predicted the bottom of the US real estate market, as the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) showed a 9 percent jump in existing-home sales over the previous year.

For 2013, 84 percent of surveyed real estate professionals believe that real estate values and the number of transactions will increase this year over 2012. Whereas in 2012, one-third of real estate markets were forecasted to see valuation declines, no single market is expected to see a decline in valuations or transactions in 2013.

2012 vs 2013 Real Estate Confidence*

        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                    2012        2013      Increase
        ============================================================================
        Real estate values                           3.0         3.9         28%
        Real estate transactions                     3.6         4.0         11%
        New constructions starts                     3.2         3.9         21%
        Local economy                                3.4         3.8         12%
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

        
(Scale of 1-5 where 1 represents a significant decline, 3 represents it to stay flat, and 5 represents a significant increase)

“The differences in how real estate professionals are seeing the market in the past 12 months is significant,” said Nikesh Parekh, CEO of ActiveRain. “Confidence in the real estate market has increased by 28 percent, and a rebound in both housing and construction this year is a great sign for the economy.”

Among the local markets expected to see the greatest activity and rebound in 2013 are several cities in the middle of the country. In fact, eight of top ten markets predicted to experience the most growth in 2013 are “heartland” states.

2013 Best Real Estate Markets

1. Austin 2. Ft. Myers – Naples 3. Kansas City 4. Salt Lake City

5. Houston 6. Portland, OR 7. Dallas-Ft. Worth 8. Nashville 9. Detroit 10. San Antonio

A full breakdown of the survey and its findings, as well as an infographic highlighting the key results, can be found at http://www.realestate.com/advice/real-estate-market-is-back/.

About Market Leader

Market Leader, founded in 1999, provides innovative online technology and marketing solutions for real estate professionals across the United States and Canada. The company serves more than 125,000 real estate agents, brokerages and franchisors, offering complete end-to-end solutions that enable them to grow and manage their businesses. Market Leader customers earn more than twice the median income of the typical NAR member. Market Leader’s subscription-based real estate marketing software — including websites, contact management, a marketing center, and lead generation services — helps customers generate a steady stream of prospects, plus provides the systems and training they need to convert those prospects into clients. In addition, the company’s national consumer real estate sites, including http://www.realestate.com, give its customers access to millions of future home buyers and sellers, while providing consumers with free access to the information they seek.

ActiveRain is the real estate market’s largest social media network, with more than 330,000 professional members, and is owned by Market Leader.

Pending Home Sales Soar Despite Rough Winter #housing #realestate

Rough winter weather across much of the nation at the start of this year apparently did not keep home buyers away.

Contracts to buy existing homes in January rose a strong 4.5 percent from the previous month, according to the National Association of Realtors, which also revised December’s numbers down. That beats expectations of a 1.8 percent gain. Volume is now 9.5 percent above January 2012 and is the highest reading since April 2010. This as closed sales of existing homes, where contracts were signed toward the end of last year, were basically flat.

“Over the near term, rising contract activity means higher home sales, but total sales for the year are expected to rise less than in 2012, while home prices are projected to rise more strongly because of inventory shortages,” wrote Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors in a release.

The existing home market is faced with a lack of supply of homes for sale, as nearly half of home sales last year were of distressed properties.

Getty Images

Banks have been slow to put foreclosed homes up for sale recently, possibly waiting for prices to improve further. While some expected a surge in inventory once home prices began to improve, that so-called “shadow supply,” has yet to emerge. Prices are rising fast, up nearly 7 percent in December from a year ago in the nation’s twenty largest real estate markets, according to the S&P/Case Shiller Index. But some would-be sellers may be waiting to see just how high prices move in the coming months, while millions of others are still trapped underwater, owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.

Mortgage applications to purchase a home fell 5 percent last week from the previous week and is now at its lowest level since the end of last year, according to a Mortgage Bankers Association weekly survey. Applications historically start to pick up around now, as President’s Day weekend marks the unofficial start of the usually busy spring housing season.

Regionally, the Realtors’ Pending Home Sales Index in the Northeast rose 8.2 percent in January and is 10.5 percent higher than January 2012. In the Midwest the index increased 4.5 percent and is 17.7 percent above a year ago. Pending home sales in the South rose 5.9 percent and are 11.3 percent higher January 2012. In the West the index edged up 0.1 percent in January but is 1.5 percent below a year ago. Supplies of homes for sale are most limited in the West, where investors have been buying distressed properties in bulk.

Mortgages
30 yr fixed 3.55% 3.14%
30 yr fixed jumbo 4.04% 3.87%
15 yr fixed 2.84% 2.71%
15 yr fixed jumbo 3.40% 3.25%
5/1 ARM 2.67% 2.52%
5/1 jumbo ARM 2.92% 2.83%
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—By CNBC’s Diana Olick; Follow her on Twitter @Diana_Olick or on Facebook atfacebook.com/DianaOlickCNBC

 

Distressed Homes Still Drive Sales

By: CNBC Real Estate Reporter

Getty Images

The housing market appears to be surging ahead suddenly on all cylinders, but that does not mean it is free of the remnants of its recent downfall.

The number of distressed home sales, either bank-owned or short sales, may be shrinking, but it is still making up a significant share of the overall housing market.

Foreclosure-related sales made up 21 percent of all U.S. sales in 2012 and short sales, when the home is sold for less than the value of the mortgage, made up 22 percent, according to a new report from RealtyTrac. Add it up and 43 percent of all 2012 sales were of distressed properties.

Banks are making more of an effort to do short sales instead of taking a home to foreclosure, and new federal guidelines are streamlining the process. That led to a 15 percent drop in sales of bank-owned homes and a 6 percent increase in short sales. This has helped home prices because short sales on average sell for a higher price than do bank-owned homes, because they are usually neither abandoned nor vandalized.

“Although foreclosure-related sales represent a shrinking share of total sales, primarily because of fewer bank-owned purchases, distressed sales are still a disproportionately high portion of the overall housing market,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac. “And while distressed properties — whether bank-owned, pre-foreclosure or short sales not in foreclosure — are still selling at a significant discount compared to non-distressed properties, average distressed property prices are increasing in many markets thanks to strong demand and limited inventory.”

Limited inventory continues to be the key in today’s housing market, driving prices higher than most analysts expected. This is surprising, as distress in the market has not simply vanished. There are currently 1.7 homes in the foreclosure process and 1.5 million more seriously delinquent loans (90 days without a payment), according to a new report from Lender Processing Services. Banks are being more aggressive with loan modifications and principal forgiveness, but many of these homes will inevitably end up going back to the banks.

“Inventories continue to be low because non-distressed sellers are largely absent from the market, apparently waiting for prices to increase even more before they decide to sell,” noted Blomquist. “I think we are seeing signs of the shadow [foreclosure] supply hitting, but more on a market-by-market basis and often in the form of short sales as opposed to REO [bank-owned] sales — although REO sales are starting to show signs of life in judicial foreclosure markets with bigger backlogs.”

Strong investor demand for these properties is pushing prices higher, even creating bubbles in some of the formerly hardest hit markets, like Phoenix and Las Vegas. If prices get too high, however, and investors can’t reap the returns they need, then supplies could grow. So far that has not happened, but home prices are rising far faster than anyone predicted.

 

Home #Buyers Are Back, but Where Are the Houses? #housing #realestate

The first official day of Spring may still be 20 days away, but the Spring housing market is already underway. Buyer traffic is rising along with home prices, but one traditional Spring phenomenon is sorely absent: rising supply. The raw number of homes for sale is now at its lowest level in over 13 years, according to the National Association of Realtors, and the numbers continue to fall.

“Some listings are vanishing from a strategic decision of waiting for an even a higher price later. Some are due to few newly built homes available to trade-up to, hence some current existing home owners are unwilling to list. Some could be related to fear of being unable to buy after selling,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.

Supplies are down across the nation, not just in the former crash markets, like Phoenix and Las Vegas, where investors decimated inventories of distressed homes in bulk purchases. Listings are down 31 percent in Seattle from a year ago, down 32 percent in Denver, down 20 percent in Houston, down 37 percent in Boston, according to local Realtor associations.

“At the moment it’s a seller’s market again,” said David Fogg, a real estate agent in Burbank, CA. “Very low inventory, very low interest rates, almost no bank inventory of homes, it’s crazy out there. Every good property I’ve listed this year has brought 10-50 offers and sales prices 10-20 percent over comps. Cash is King.”

Nearly one third of all existing home sales in January were paid for in cash, and not just by investors, who are making up a shrinking share of the market. Fierce competition is forcing buyers to use every advantage, given that so many are going after so little.

In California’s San Fernando Valley there are usually over 9,000 homes for sale this time of year, according to real estate agent Billy Wynn. Today there are just over 1,400.

“Realtors are getting so many offers they are taking the homes off the market and not accepting additional offers before any offer is even accepted,” said Wynn. “This is real estate bubble 2.0 on steroids.”

It is a puzzling situation, given all the warnings of a tsunami of so-called “shadow inventory” that was supposed to be flooding the market right now. As it stands, fewer distressed properties are coming to the market.

“The ticking time bomb of shadow supply has been diffused by a combination of foreclosure processing delays in judicial states, legislation slowing down the foreclosure process in non-judicial states, foreclosure prevention programs and initiatives encouraging short sales,” said Daren Blomquist of RealtyTrac. “Notably, in 2012, was the National Mortgage Settlement, which both encouraged foreclosure prevention and short sales as an alternative to foreclosure, and the loosening of short sale guidelines by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in November.”

As a result, short sales, where the home is sold for less than the value of the mortgage, are rising as a share of total distressed sales, while bank-owned home sales are falling. Investors are now competing for such little supply that they are ironically pricing themselves out of the market.

“We are hearing also, that new home buyers are not really looking at the foreclosure market—the houses are either not in good neighborhoods or the house is in bad condition and needs a lot of updates,” noted Paul Miller, an analyst at FBR. “So home buyers are either going to new-builds or being very picky with the type and shape of the house. We are hearing from plenty of mortgage brokers that they are working with many couples, and they just can’t find the perfect house.”

Mortgages
30 yr fixed 3.55% 3.14%
30 yr fixed jumbo 4.04% 3.87%
15 yr fixed 2.84% 2.71%
15 yr fixed jumbo 3.40% 3.25%
5/1 ARM 2.67% 2.52%
5/1 jumbo ARM 2.92% 2.83%
Find personalized rates:

It is the same story in Houston, Texas, where there were 25,600 listings in January of last year and just 19,000 today. Real estate agents there doubt they will see a surge in inventory this Spring, as Houston is experiencing an employment boom. The Texas Workforce Commission reported more than 85,000 new jobs were created there in 2012. Housing starts are expected to rise by about 17 percent, but that only translates to about 28,000 new homes, according to the Houston Association of Realtors, and current homeowners are just not stepping up.

“Many of my clients are unsure about the economy and the future costs they may face that are associated with The Affordable Care Act. Many say they are nervous about the future and are just sitting back waiting for economic conditions to level out,” explained Danny Frank, Chairman of the Houston Association of Realtors. “Some sellers may be reluctant to put their homes on the market because it typically requires them, in turn, to purchase a home. They may not be financially prepared to make that commitment at this time. Another factor is that there simply isn’t a vast number of homes currently on the market in Houston because of the buying surge we experienced throughout 2012 and now into the new year.”

It may also be a case of, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ Homeowners were crushed by falling home prices, losing trillions of dollars collectively in home equity. Now that prices are rising, and rising faster than most expected, sellers likely see no reason to rush.

“We are not seeing a flood of new listings, as I would have predicted in a rising market,” said Steve Storti of Philadelphia-based Prudential Fox & Roach. “Sellers are wary and perhaps a little shell-shocked by having listed previously and not being successful. They also may be waiting for prices to rise.”

—By CNBC’s Diana Olick; Follow her on Twitter @Diana_Olick or on Facebook atfacebook.com/DianaOlickCNBC

Will the #housing market revival last?

Sale pendingFor the moment, the good news in the housing market comes with fundamental shifts in supply, demand and mortgage interest rates. (Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images photo / March 1, 2013)
Ilyce Glink & Samuel TamkinReal Estate Matters, Tribune Media Services4:30 a.m. CST, March 1, 2013
The housing market news sounds good this week. Sales of previously owned homes crawled up another 0.4 percent in January, which means that if this level of housing activity keeps up all year, sales will hit nearly 5 million,.That’s not the only good news. Existing home sale prices rose again, for the 11th month in a row, according to the National Association of Realtors. The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $173,600 in January, up 12.3 percent from January 2012. (The last time it jumped that much was from July 2005 to May 2006.)

It’s the best year for the housing market since 2007, before the economy fell off the cliff into the worst recession in 80 years. And for the moment, the good news has to do with a couple of fundamental shifts in supply, demand and mortgage interest rates.

Let’s start with interest rates. When the Federal Reserve Bank moved to lower the federal funds rate (which is the rate many long-term interest rates are tied to), there was a lot of howling about how near-zero interest rates would ultimately cause hyperinflation, or an interest rate environment where we would see 30-year mortgage interest rates climb to perhaps double-digits.

That hasn’t happened, not by a long shot. Despite the fact that the Federal Reserve continues to spend of $85 billion per month buying mortgage-backed and other securities, long-term interest rates are actually lower this year than last year.

All the chatter about mortgage rates at historic low levels has sparked another round of refinancing. It has also piqued the interest of buyers who are starting to wonder whether they will miss the opportunity to buy homes that are still priced 20 to 30 percent below the high values set in 2006 — and to finance the purchase at the lowest interest rates in history.

Homes are the most affordable they’ve been in decades, say the Realtors, but that could change soon if more homeowners don’t decide to jump off the fence and become sellers. The number of homes on the market is the lowest it has been since 1999, and that is one of the main reasons home prices are rising, according to Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

“Buyer traffic is continuing to pick up, while seller traffic is holding steady,” Yun explained. “In fact, buyer traffic is 40 percent above a year ago, so there is plenty of demand but insufficient inventory to improve sales more strongly. We’ve transitioned into a seller’s market in much of the country.

“We expect a seasonal rise of inventory this spring, but it may be insufficient to avoid more frequent incidences of multiple bidding and faster-than-normal price growth.”

Frenzied bidding wars may sound good to sellers who have been waiting for prices to rise to a place where they’re not underwater and can sell and move on with their lives. But it isn’t the balanced market so many in the real estate industry have been hoping for.

In fact, a number of factors could derail the housing market revival.

Let’s start with the economy. The economy contracted slightly (by 0.1 percent) in the fourth quarter of 2012, surprising most economists. If government spending continues to decline, it may well spark another recession, though perhaps not as bad as the last.

Even if the country doesn’t fall into a technical recession, extremely slow growth and continued high levels of unemployment mean more homeowners will fall behind on their house payments and into foreclosure or short sale. That will, in turn, drive down home prices again.

Real estate investors have played a key role in turning around the housing market, sopping up homes at the low end. But once the low-hanging fruit (super-cheap homes) is absorbed, real estate investors will either turn into sellers or put up “for rent” signs on their property. With less competition, home sellers won’t get bidding wars and may have to accept lower prices.

Finally, there are a number of reasons why the Federal Reserve will start to raise interest rates, including a rise in inflation. Once that happens, many economists expect the housing market to hit the brakes, as home buyers get used to the idea that their mortgage will carry a 5 or 6 percent interest rate. While that used to seem cheap, it seems downright unreasonable when today’s 30-year fixed rate mortgages are at 3.5 percent.

Higher interest rates mean home buyers will have to spend less to get the same payment. And that will translate into lower offer for sellers.

While it looks good now, that could change. Nevertheless, if you’re selling or refinancing, you’re in a better place now than you were last year.

 

Americans, by a margin of more than 3 to 1, expect the housing market to improve over the next 12 months, part of a broader brightening in their outlook for the economy, according to a Bloomberg National Poll.

 

Fifty percent of poll respondents say the market will continue to get better in 2013 compared with only 16 percent who say they expect it to decline. An additional 31 percent say the market will stay about the same.

i_HUBqi9VQ20Prices are very steadily, slowly, starting to creep back up,” says Eric Matheny, 31, an attorney from Fort Lauderdale,Florida, who purchased a new home five months ago. “The housing market is a major part of the economy, so it says something about the strength of the economy.”

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index rose 5.5 percent in the 12 months to November, the biggest year-over-year gain since August 2006. In January, homebuilders began work on 613,000 single-family homes, the most since July 2008, the U.S. Commerce Department said yesterday.

As the housing market, the epicenter of the 2008 financial crisis, continues healing, Americans say they expect its improvement to spread through the economy, according to the poll of 1,003 adults conducted Feb. 15-18.

By a margin of 43 percent to 26 percent, respondents say prospects for job growth will rise over the next 12 months, with 30 percent seeing little change; 37 percent anticipate a stronger economy compared with 25 percent who disagree and 37 percent who say it will be about the same.

Deficit Concern

Susan Kosko, 43, a risk-management assistant in ruralPennsylvania, says she feels “a tiny bit” better about the economy thanks to rising home prices in her area and lowinterest rates.

“The deficit is a big concern,” she adds via e-mail.

On several other measures of economic well-being that Bloomberg has tracked over time, the share of poll respondents saying they expect improvement rose from December.

Asked about overall financial security, 32 percent say they expect their situation to get better compared with 14 percent who see tougher times ahead and 48 percent seeing little change.

There’s also an increase in the share of respondents saying the market value of their homes will rise, with 27 percent expecting higher prices compared with 16 percent who anticipate falling values and 34 percent saying they’ll be about the same. In December, Americans were evenly split, with 20 percent predicting higher prices and 20 percent lower prices.

Getting Closer

By a margin of 49 percent to 37 percent, Americans say they feel they’re moving closer to their career and financial goals.

“We’re every year getting closer and closer,” says Matheny. “I’ve got a good work ethic and I put my heart and soul into my job.”

Still, more than three years after the end of the 2007-09 recession, concerns remain. Asked about having enough disposable income to make large household purchases, 29 percent say they expect more difficulty in the coming year compared with 19 percent who plan to loosen their belts.

Thirty-one percent say money for vacations or entertainment will be tighter while 21 percent say the situation will improve. While 28 percent say they expect their household-income situation will be better, 13 percent say it will be worse and 54 percent see no change.

“We’re advancing, but very, very slowly,” says John Grannan, 62, a retired police officer in Fort WayneIndiana, who now teaches criminal justice at a local university.

The economy will grow 1.8 percent this year, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

Failing Grade

With the stock market close to regaining its pre-crisis peak, respondents expect betterinvestment performance by a margin of 23 percent to 18 percent, with 34 percent seeing little change.

Bob Magera, 63, a part-time pharmaceutical salesman in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, says his 401(k) retirement accounts lost about 50 percent of their value during the financial crisis.

“I’m not where I’d like to be, but I’m OK,” he said.

The outlook isn’t without clouds. President Barack Obama continues to get a failing grade from a plurality of respondents on the question of “making people like me feel more economically secure.” By 48 percent to 45 percent, respondents disapprove of the president’s performance on that issue.

Political Dysfunction

Outright majorities say they expect the national debt and health-care costs to continue worsening. By a 56 percent to 16 percent tally, poll respondents say the nation’s $16 trillion debtwill get worse over the next 12 months while 55 percent say health-care costs will get worse.

Washington’s chronic showdowns over government spending also have left Americans worried about the impact of political dysfunction on retirement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. And by 46 percent to 10 percent, those surveyed expect their federal tax bills to rise in the coming year.

Sizable shares of poll respondents express concern that Social Security and Medicare may not be available when they retire. On Social Security, 43 percent say it probably or definitely won’t exist when they need it, while 54 percent say the program will definitely or probably be there.

Thirty-nine percent of Americans are skeptical that Medicare will be around when they need it, while 57 percent say the health-insurance program for the elderly will definitely or probably be there.

Global Standing

“Unless we get this deficit under control and unless we get spending under control, I don’t think they’ll be around in five or six years,” says Grannan. “Sooner or later, those people we elected better get along and do something before this country falls apart.”

The poll also finds concern over the prospects for the U.S.’s global standing. Since the financial crisis erupted in the fourth quarter of 2008, the Chinese economy has grown at an average annual rate of 8.9 percent compared with 0.6 percent for the U.S., according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

In the poll, 35 percent say the country’s standing in the world will get worse over the next 12 months while 26 percent say it will improve. An additional 37 percent expect it to remain unchanged.

The Bloomberg National Poll was conducted by Selzer & Co., a Des Moines, Iowa-based pollster. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

To contact the reporter on this story: David J. Lynch in Washington at dlynch27@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Cesca Antonelli at fantonelli@bloomberg.net

 

These Are The Questions About Crime #Homebuyers Always Forget To Ask

breaking-bad-4The list of question every buyer asks about the various properties during a house hunt is relatively predictable.

How many bedrooms does it have? Baths? Square footage? What are the HOA dues?  What’s the school district?

Then, we get more specific, personalizing the questions based on our own vision, aesthetics and lifestyle needs:

Can that wall be moved?  Is there space for Grandma’s dining room table? Is there a shady spot for an orchid house in the backyard?

When it comes to crime, most of us simply don’t ask any questions at all, as (a) agents might be prohibited from doing much beyond pointing us to law enforcement sources, and (b) we tend to assume most neighborhoods are either ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ low-crime or not.

The truth is never so black and white. Fortunately, technology has made it easy-peasy for us to get a deeper, more nuanced, and more usable understanding of the crime that takes place in our neighborhood-to-be, which in turn allows us to make smarter decisions about which home we buy and how we live in it, once we buy it, than we could have even ten years ago.

The key to tapping into this nuanced crime information is asking the right questions. Here’s a short list of the right questions to ask about crime before you buy a home.

1.  Do any offenders live nearby? In most states, Megan’s Law and similar provisions mandate that certain individuals with histories of criminal convictions must register their home addresses with local authorities, who in turn are required to make this information available to the public. Google “your city, your state Megan’s Law registry” to find sites where you can type in an address (like the address of the home you’re considering buying) and find a list of registered sex offenders in the area. Many of these sites will also offer you a map showing your address and the relative locations of the homes of the registered offenders.

The reality is that every neighborhood – even very upscale areas – has someone living in it who has committed a crime in the past, so don’t completely freak out if you happen to find someone in your neighborhood-to-be with a history of sex offenses. The utility of this information is that it empowers you and your children to recognize these dangers and to take care to avoid hazardous situations. That said, if you happen to have young children and notice that the Megan’s Law map has a halfway house with a dozen registered sex offenders living right next door to your target home, that information might change your decision about whether that property is the right one for you.

There is also power in following the path of the information you are given on these registry sites.  Many will surface information like what the registrants’ crimes were, when they happened, the registrants’ photos and more useful intelligence. This information can help you evaluate the degree to which you should be concerned before you buy.

2.  Was the home a drug lab?  You think your home’s former owner’s food or pet smells are toxic? That’s nothing compared to the truly unpleasant and health-impairing effects some have experienced after buying a home that turned out to have been a methamphetamine lab in a former life.  If the sellers know this about a home, they should certainly disclose it. Unfortunately, many of these homes end up sold by banks as foreclosures, or by estates, trusts, landlords or other corporate owners who don’t know the home’s past – or don’t have a legal obligation to disclose it.

Get the answer to this question to the best of your ability via this two-step process:
(a) talk with the neighbors – they often will reveal whether the house had a shady past, then
(b) search the federal Drug Enforcement Association’s Clandestine Laboratory Registry, here:  http://www.justice.gov/dea/clan-lab/clan-lab.shtml.

3.  What sorts of crimes happen in the area. Where and when do they happen? Crime happens virtually everywhere. But the details of crime patterns vary widely in various neighborhoods. One side of town might be plagued with an overall low crime rate, but the crime that does happen tends to be violent crime after dark. While another neighborhood across town might have lots of car break-ins during the day while people are at work, but not much going on after residents get back home – and not much violent crime at all.

This sort of information can be highly useful to a buyer-to-be, as it can help you make decisions not just about whether or not to buy, but also about whether to park your car outside (or not), whether to get an alarm and where in a given neighborhood you might prefer your home to be (e.g., interior cul-de-sac vs. thoroughfare in the same area).

Trulia Crime Maps offer precisely this sort of nuanced information, allowing you to view your town and neighborhood’s crime rate in heat map format showing the relative violent and non-violent crimes that have taken place recently in different parts of town. It also provides information on crime trends, in terms of the frequency of criminal activity taking place at various hours of the day, and the most dangerous intersections in your town or area.  SpotCrime.com offers another angle on nuanced crime data, breaking down crime types with easy-to-scan icons and providing data for communities all over the country.

4.  What anti-crime features does – or can – the home have?  Review your disclosures and talk with the sellers (through your agent, of course) about what anti-crime features the home currently has. This will allow you to prepare for any upgrades, downgrades or changes you’ll want to make.  For example, if a home has security bars that were installed 3 decades ago, you might want to have them brought up to code with a fire release bar, or removed altogether.  Or, perhaps the sellers currently have the home wired for an alarm that can be armed, disarmed and video monitored remotely – if you want to continue that service, you’ll need to get that information and make the account change when you take over the other utilities and home services.

On the other hand, the home might not have any anti-crime features.  So, if there is a particular alarm or monitoring system you like, it is smart to check in with that provider before close of escrow to find out whether they can provide services to the new address and, if so, what it will cost and take to equip the home and start service up at closing.

5.  What does the neighborhood do to fight crime – and how can I help? Neighborhoods across the country fight and prevent crime the grassroots way, by maintaining strong connections between the home owners and neighbors who all have in common the desire to live and raise their families in a safe, secure, thriving place.  Don’t hesitate to ask your home’s seller and/or any neighbors you talk to about whether there are any neighborhood associations, neighborhood watch groups, email lists, social networks, regular meetings, block parties or other community connections in which you can actively participate. ALL: Did you ever omit to ask a crime-related question about a home – and later come to regret it?

SOURCE: Trulia.com